Dr. Paulins is an expert on ethical decision making, with additional research interests of customer service and consumer behavior, particularly in the fashion industry. She researches methods for ethical decision making in professional development of students preparing for careers.
Paulins studies ethics in the fashion industry, both on macro and micro levels. In more of a global approach, she studies how a company formulates its mission statement or values and how employees use that to make decisions on behalf of the company. She looks at why companies make decisions that don’t always align with their missions and end up in ethical controversies involving fashion industry issues like copyright misuse, counterfeit merchandise and child labor and sweatshop conditions.
On a micro level, Paulins researches how relationships influence decision making in fashion, particularly mother-daughter and parent-child relationships. Her research shows that initially parents influence and make decisions about appearance for their children, but over time children become more involved in trends and popular culture and become the fashion influencers to their parents.
With a background in retail, Paulins became interested in the human resources aspect of the fashion industry, what makes a positive work environment and how that contributes to a company’s level of customer service and satisfaction.
Paulins studies emotional work, or work in a high-stress environment dealing with customers who need problems solved or are projecting their stress onto the employee. Many people don’t realize the amount of emotional work that exists in customer service, she says.
Paulins uses observational and survey research to develop best practices and evaluations for customer service employees to assure they are providing great service in a positive work environment. She recently published “When the Customer Hears No,” a publication of best practices for customer service training developed in part with Ohio University Parking Services, to be presented at a customer service conference this summer.
When researching, Paulins stresses the importance of understanding the service provider’s experience as well as the customer’s experience. She looks to improve the collection of feedback to get the most objective responses from customers in order to accurately evaluate employees’ performances and improve practices.
Another component under the ethical decision-making umbrella of Paulins’ studies involves professional development of Ohio University students. Through research, presenting and teaching, she emphasizes the importance of a new professional’s personal decision making skills in career success.
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